There’s no denying that parents have a lot to keep up with, from juggling homework and school events to keeping track of cooking, cleaning, and scheduling appointments. That includes regular dental visits, which are an essential part of keeping your child’s teeth and gums healthy. Most moms and dads know how important these checkups are, but what you may not know is that early orthodontic evaluations can also play a key role in your child’s oral health. In fact, they’re so beneficial that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends every child have one by around the age of seven!
You may be wondering what’s at the root of that recommendation since younger children still have developing mouths and many baby teeth remaining. Scheduling regular visits with an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Levin gives us the chance to monitor your child’s smile as they grow, identify problems in their early stages, and correct these issues before they can have a negative impact on their teeth and bite.
We’ve treated many children over the years and seen firsthand how early evaluations can set kids up for a lifetime of healthy, happy smiles. Do you have a child who’s ready for their first orthodontic appointment? The team here at Levin Orthodontics would love to meet you both and take a look at how their smile is developing! During this initial consultation, Dr. Levin will examine their mouth for signs of several common orthodontic issues. We’ll outline some of these below, so keep reading to learn more!
Tooth loss and eruption
People tend to overlook baby teeth, especially since they all fall out eventually. But as the placeholders for our permanent teeth, where they’re located and when they’re lost matters more than you may think. These primary teeth also tend to fall out in a fairly specific pattern. If Dr. Levin notices a significant deviation from this, it could mean there’s a developmental issue that requires more attention.
By the time they’re ready for an evaluation with our Marietta or Sandy Springs office, most children will have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors. If your child has any more or less than this, it could indicate that there may be missing, crowded, or extra teeth that require additional monitoring by our expert team.
Crowding and spacing
When you bring your child in for an evaluation, Dr. Levin will perform an oral examination. They’ll be able to identify any issues with excessive crowding or spacing, whether they’re present now or likely to develop in the future. Spacing issues can arise if a tooth has been lost prematurely, if one has never developed, or when the teeth are too small or narrow. If crowding is causing a problem, we can often address it by extracting certain primary teeth. In more severe cases, our doctors may choose to use dental arch development and expansion.
Crooked teeth are challenging for children for several reasons. They’re more difficult to clean thoroughly and more susceptible to uneven wear and tear. When this is left untreated over time, it can compromise the surrounding gum tissue and may even change the shape and position of the gum line. Although we can successfully align teeth at almost any age, correcting certain issues early in life is a great way to give your child a head start on a healthy mouth!
Front teeth that obviously protrude are usually seen as more of a cosmetic concern, but the effects of an overbite pattern can go beyond appearances. Patients may experience pain in the jaw and excessive tooth wear. Some even have trouble managing normal speech patterns. Although we’ll usually want to wait until a child’s mouth has matured a bit before attempting to correct an overbite, there are still a number of things we can do to reduce the risk of pain and traumatic injury in the meantime. These corrective measures can also improve a child’s confidence in their smile as they grow.
When a child has an underbite, we will first need to determine whether it’s caused by problems with the eruption of the teeth or by the relationship of the jaws. This means that we’ll sometimes need to wait until the patient has finished growing before beginning comprehensive treatment. However, earlier measures can be taken to help avoid damage to the front teeth and encourage skeletal correction. Our underbite patients who receive treatment between the ages of 7-10 tend to be less likely to need corrective jaw surgery when they are older.
A posterior crossbite can lead to crowding and reduced function in the airway. It may also cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other. Expanding the upper jaw in early childhood as opposed to adulthood is more predictable and requires less pressure with less invasive appliances. Treating a posterior crossbite can help eliminate shifts in the bite that can lead to asymmetric jaw growth, will reduce crowding, and can also create space for the permanent teeth to erupt. Treatment may even improve the quality of a child’s airway.
Anterior Open Bites
When a child has an anterior open bite, the front teeth don’t overlap enough, which can result in poor function and excessive wear on the back teeth. It’s often caused by oral habits like extended finger or thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, or when a child uses a bottle or pacifier for too long. If that’s the case, our team will be happy to work with you both to help eliminate destructive habits so their dental development can continue normally.
Give your child’s smile the best start at Levin Orthodontics
When you understand what an early orthodontic evaluation is looking for, it’s easy to see why they’re important to a child’s overall oral health. If Dr. Levin doesn’t feel like immediate treatment is indicated for your child, he’ll recommend regular checkups as they grow instead. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Levin is monitoring their growth and dental development, ready to spring into action if an issue pops up! If your child is ready for their first orthodontic evaluation, get in touch with us today to schedule a FREE consultation with our expert team and get them started on their very best smile!